Who is Adam Brett Walker? If you're a casual fan, you probably haven't heard much of him at all, at least until late last week. Back on Saturday, Walker entered (or re-entered) our collective consciousness by blasting three home runs for Triple-A Rochester in a single game. Always known for his prodigious power, mashing is going to be his fastest ticket to the major leagues. After all, he's had an isolated power (ISO) of over .200 every single season of his minor league career with the exception of 2014 at High-A (he still hit 25 home runs that season). For context, the average ISO in MLB has hovered around .135 to .155 for the past couple years. Walker's power is no joke.
In an already lost season, it's completely understandable for fans to be clamoring for the team to dump its dead weight and see what the kids can do after a call-up from the farm. After his career day on Saturday, I'm sure there are people that think that Walker is worth a promotion with little production coming elsewhere in the Twins lineup.
On one hand, it absolutely would be fun to see Walker hitting moonshots in games. However, there's one thing holding Walker back from him realizing his potential, an issue that actually has been a significant problem for the current Twins squad: the strikeout.
I know many fans are already fed up with Miguel Sano striking out so often. The same is true for Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia, Eddie Rosario, Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana, players that all are striking out more than once every five plate appearances. That was a problem we knew entering the season, but with the offense struggling to actually generate runs, it's become Public Enemy #1. Clearly the Twins would be hitting better if they had fewer strikeouts! Except the Mets and Rays are striking out more than the Twins and yet they both have above-average offenses according to wRC+ and OPS+, so strikeouts don't necessarily stop an offense in its tracks.
Okay then, how much could Adam Brett Walker be striking out? It can't be any worse than what the team is already doing, right? Well... yeah... it is worse, and by a lot. The Twins are striking out 23% of the time as a team. Walker - at Triple-A, mind you - is striking out nearly twice as often.
I italicized that last part to demonstrate that it was not a typo. This season, Walker has K'd in 43.8% of his plate appearances, roughly four out of every nine plate appearances. Last season at Double-A, that number was 34.8%. His lowest strikeout rate in his career was 20.8% and that was at Single-A in 2013. So yeah, strikeouts for Adam Brett Walker aren't just a problem, they're a disaster.
For what it's worth, projection systems at FanGraphs think Walker can improve his K rate, but they all are pegging him for 33% or higher. For a comparison, Sano has struck out 35% of the time throughout his short major league career. That means that Walker would have to hit for some big-time power in order to be a valuable contributor to the Twins. It's not impossible, but the odds are against him to succeed.
Thus, while Twins fans may clamor to see Walker graduate from his Red Wings uniform in the middle of the season, it simply seems unlikely unless he can figure out how to reduce his strikeout rate. Of course, when he's swinging out of his shoes on every pitch, it's a tall task for him to accomplish. There still is a possibility that Walker makes his major league debut at some point this season, but for right now it feels like he'd be little more than a September call-up.